Meet FOMO’s Cousin, FODO

Social plague or millennial courtesy?


So, is “me time” real?

Last week, I was at dinner and an acquaintance named Mark was lamenting about a trip he was about to embark on to his friend’s cabin upstate, even though all he wanted to do was stay home and spend time with his pet dogs. Plural.

We determined that he was not suffering from a case of FOMO (fear of missing out) or FOMD (fear of missing documentation) because he both wanted to miss the event that lay ahead and well understood that upstate, the wifi is as rare as an eagle seen flying through New York (so how would he document?). He was, however, growing privy to a different phenomenon we have recently identified as FODO.

FODO stands for Fear of Disappointing Others and more often than not gets bracketed within FOMO, when in reality, the social deficiency is loosely, if at all, a cousin of the aforementioned. This is chiefly because FOMO is a much more unilateral ailment whereas FODO pertains to second or third party contribution as well.

We tend to find ourselves programmed for plans involving people we don’t want to see, or going to events we don’t want to attend. But why is that? As a sufferer of FODO, I think sometimes you simply might not want to hurt the courter’s feelings. Other times, you can’t pull the trigger on telling that girl you interned with in college, who has been e-mailing on a weekly basis since you both graduated five years ago asking when you can “do” drinks, that the 35th of Nevuary is when works for you.

In 90% of instances, you can be a victim of FODO because you suffer from another terminal malady called Sympathy.

My own experience has frankly found it too dick-y not to go along with someone who is suggesting we make plans. What am I supposed to say in return to a summoning? “I’d really prefer it if we remained e-mail correspondents”?

Amelia practically spends her nights appeasing her FODO. Sometimes she even does it romantically. Says the afflicted, “I hate generally 99% of the population and yet my dedication to good manners is so crippling that I would literally say yes to Putin if he bugged me enough.”

But is there a cure? Can there be a cure?

Maybe, and it is vaguely tethered to the principles that YOLO is founded upon.

On December 31st of 2013, my friend Sophie made a resolution that in 2014 she would not only do her, but she would also never penalize her friends for doing them. For weeks, she walked around saying, “You do you, and I’ll do me” as she ducked out of social dinner obligations early, or uncharacteristically came out of conversations with chronic cancelers (not to be confused with chancellors but similar to Bailer Swifts), unscathed and with poise.

There is the possibility that there’s a larger motif at play with FODO. It could be that the alleged plague is simply the Millennial, albeit narcissistic, equivalent of politeness. Maybe we’re not afraid to disappoint others so much as we don’t want to — or know how to — because we’ve been trained to react in social settings differently. That, of course, brings up the question of what’s worse: nipping an undesired plan so soon it can’t even be rendered a plan, or going through with the preparations and subsequently lashing out while you bewail agreeing to do something you believe you shouldn’t have to do.

I should mention that Mark had a wonderful time upstate.

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  • Aubrey Green

    Just say, no thank you? I just realized this is a huge pet peeve of mine. It really doesn’t make sense to me why people can’t just say no, it makes me uncomfortable to think what you say yes to. You know how your mom/dad use to say, (maybe they still say), “if someone/friend/etc asked you to jump off of a bridge, would you?!” Maybe that whole D.A.R.E program really did have a point.

    I do understand the predicament of the friend who keeps asking you to get drinks – I think if we’re always concerned about pleasing someone else, we’re never really pleasing ourselves.

    P.S. I’m happy your friend had a good time.

    • Amelia Diamond

      I find it impossible to say no, personally, because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings! The hope is that you can appease them, have one drink, and then it’s done. Also, I often find that I have a pleasant time doing whatever it is that I was dreading, so each time it comes up again I suppose I’d rather just go and MAYBE have a nice time, than not go, and piss someone off. FODO is hard!

      • Aubrey Green

        I hear you.

      • omg i could never say no!! I would picture that person crying hysterically in their room. Which is extremely narcissistic of me because I doubt anyone wants to hang with me THAT badly. I think my FODO (great call on that one by the way, Leandra), stems from my parents making me attend every single birthday party in elementary school I was invited to, even if the kids were “losers”. However, I feel like I am very good at slowly phasing people out.

      • Élora

        Word. And certain situations just don’t really allow the “no” option: like you can’t tell someone who wants to hang out with you that you actually don’t enjoy their company and would rather not. Or at least I can’t. So I just say yes every once in a while and hope that someday I will have said no enough that they’ll realize this is a one-sided friendship. I think hurting people’s feelings is like the one thing I fear most! But I’m Canadian so I guess it’s in my DNA.

      • Amy

        I wonder how you would feel if you had asked someone to go for a drink and they agreed, even though it was the last thing they wanted to do that evening, and you found out they had come along, despite not wanting to, but had anyway for fear of offending you? Personally, I would be much more upset and embarrassed if someone had agreed to see me when they didn’t want to and would have much preferred a polite “No, thank you”. You’re not really pleasing yourself, but more importantly, you’re not pleasing the person you’re saying yes to.

  • love this post, so true and such a good (and humorous) read 😀 I definitely have all of the above

    Mel x

  • love the post! have all the above but getting “better” as I age! =]

  • Toni World

    Boundaries my dear! If you say “yes” to something and quickly have remorse it is likely that healthy boundaries may need to be embraced ! It is tough being a FODO as I have resigned from this malady. Remember “NO” is a complete sentence!

  • That’s a hard one. I am not obsessed with spending 110% of my time in the ways I (expect to) appreciate and also happen to believe that being able to just spend average time in an average way at least once in a while and without getting all fidgety because of all the really good stuff and totally great people one is missing out on is a sign of one’s social health (possibly also social wealth) … I have still managed to tell a few persons in my life I could not find time for them just then. Often enough, that was the truth, and I think as a hard-working person I am allowed to say “I am too hard-working to have time for you” in a nice way and get off with it. But a few times, I just couldn’t stand the thought of spending time with the person in question, so I used the time excuse, hoping to pass for someone who prefers work to life, but not for someone who simply doesn’t want to spend any damn time with you. Well.
    The joke is … I get on with many different people quite well and I always begin with liking them, no matter who they are, so Putin would have gotten his communication time with me as well. 🙂
    Still, there are some behaviors I strongly dislike: malignant gossip, for example, especially the kind arising from the gossipers’ inferiority complex and the need to boost one’s Persöhnchen. That and self-inflated entrepreneurs incessantly spilling their Me-asm, diverse psycho blackmailers …

    Well, you do have a list at MY age, you need it to prove your Seen-It-All-Obnoxiousness :-))

    So I go all polite and pretend it’s all my fault we cannot spend some time together, hoping that’s polite enough …

  • Lucy

    I think FODO can expand to other things, like work, which can make you a better employee, but also cause extreme stress and anxiety. Hence, when I feel as though I have disappointed my manager, I revert to a 5 year old and want to curl up in a ball and cry.

    All FODO is a great example of our extreme narcissism.. Are people really that desperate to hang out with me? Is my job that important that any mistake I make is noticed by my manager? Probably not!

  • I’m such a people pleaser that this definitely applies to me. I feel bad if I make someone else feel bad (intentional or not) and I tend to overthink a lot of situations just to make sure others are most comfortable. I tend to forget myself in all of it, I’ve learned to backtrack a little and put myself first. There is a fine line between being considerate and a pushover people pleaser.

  • frau musgrave

    Don’t you think it’s simply a matter of wanting to please? It’s all wrapped up in the cloak of manners / politeness etc, but isn’t it really just down to wanting to be loved and fearing rejection in return when you reject?

    • Cogitate

      actually it is..

  • Jill S

    I have very little FODO. Maybe too little. But I have a mother who has always managed to let me know, in her passive-aggressive way, that I’m just not giving her what she needs (read: wants). Thus, she’s constantly disappointed. But at this point (and for the last few years). I’m over it. If people get disappointed, so be it. I’m not feeling guilty. Caveat: I’m also nowhere near a Millennial, so take that for what it’s worth. I do aim to have manners and general politeness, and treat others with respect. But FODO is not a very big part of my life. 🙂

  • LAW

    We tend to value our time given to others a lot more than said others really do. And it makes sense: it’s OUR time to give. It’s not that I don’t value a friend’s time, but if they have to break a plan, I’m not losing sleep over it. (Unless it’s a thing that always happens, and if that’s the case, I tend to not think these people are really friends). There’s nothing that bothers me more than when I can tell a friend has FODO about having to break plans. If we are good friends, I trust that we’ll make up the missed date in the future. Don’t make me do this weird “ahhh I really wish you could, but I understand you’re tired” thing. Just say “I’m too fucking tired, next week is better.” Honesty is always better when it comes to breaking plans. People might be mad but they always survive, and if they’re really your friend, they’ll respect the truth rather than a weird, awkward excuse.

  • Margaret Ely

    so my question is why are we turning down these social obligations? usually to watch really bad tv like right now (watching my 600 lb life on TLC). SO maybe FODO is a good thing to have because my brain is becoming more dumber from watching any show on TLC (ha ha)

  • Kiri Yanchenko

    interesting. Now I have heard everything. I have a terrible case of FOMO all the time. Especially when I read your blog. Although I’d need to be invited to awesome stuff before I could have FODO!

  • Katie McMurtry

    I relate to this so intensely. I’m going to overuse this term so much.

  • Samira

    This article is purely amazing.

  • dagmara cintron

    I battled FODO all throughout high school and my early years of college, and occasionally now a day. I think I just realized it doesn’t make sense to do things you simply don’t want to do, with people you don’t want to see. Unfortunately I’ve resorted to plain old lies such as “I have too much homework,” or “I already promised so and so I’d hangout with them” in the past to opt out of these encounters, which probably isn’t any better than going when you don’t want to. I agree, FODO is hard.

    Great post.

  • Jen

    Amazing post. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately. I’ve come across an astonishing group of women who will not stop badgering me to do something. Whether that be running errands with them (no thanks) or simply going to dinner.

    The problem with saying no, or rather making up excuses because you genuinely do not want to see the person, is that you become the bitch. I had a former roommate completely go psycho because it got to a point where she annoyed me so much that I always had an excuse for her when she asked if I wanted to do something.

    Now, when a similar situation arises I don’t know what to do. Politely break up with the person who won’t stop bothering you, or go along with it and torture yourself? It’s a lose-lose in my book.


    • Thenuttychick

      I have always been battling FODO .I am so going through this for the last few weeks… by now I think I have completely turned out to be the BITCH …

  • We all suffer from FODO sometimes, especially at work! The key is to take a moment, and be honest with yourself on what you are capable of before making any promises…

  • Emiliy

    If you don’t want to go, say no right ahead. Nothing makes me more mad or upset than when I’m hit with the “not feeling good/really tired/stomach ache” excuse thirty minutes before we’re supposed to meet up. Be up front so the other person knows where they have you.

  • IN PR this is SO true.

  • Ranim

    As the biggest flake i know, i don’t suffer from FODO enough. Even as your friend’s resolved to “do her” her this year, I promised that I’d eat a whopping portion of FODO (along with not shampooing my hair too frequently, as chronicled in my incredibly fascinating blog). The result? Several months in I flaked on a date, which sent him into a moody, sulky mood. Bullet dodged? Yes. Clearly I belong in the “do me” camp, and I’m not leaving it.

  • Lynda

    i think it depends on the situation. i have a friend who tries to make it to everything (due to a combination of FODO and FOMO) but she always looks so tired. and after she makes the rounds of saying hi to everyone, she sits around for the point of being there but doesn’t try to engage with anyone (or always engages with the same person/people) – then the rest of us wonders why she makes it at all.